In the second part of this month's roundtable, we asked the Forgotten Realms design team about whether the gods would once again play a significant role in the edition change like they did in the previous one (the Time of Troubles). Is there anything like that taking place this time around?
Rich Baker: Crap, no!
James Wyatt: No, no, no, no, no.
Jim Butler: Absolutely not.
Sean Reynolds: Not in terms of deities.
Rob Heinsoo: Right. No big Realms Shakers with the gods.
Rich Baker: We deliberately stayed away from anything like the Avatar Crisis as an explanation for the edition change.
James Wyatt: We've tried throughout to avoid any kind of RSE ("Realms-Shaking Event") to give an in-game reason for the rules shifts that have happened.
Jim Butler: While the Time of Troubles remains one of the most well-known events of the Realms, it was also one of the most problematic. We got the message from fans worldwide that they didn't want us having the gods walk across Toril this time around.
James Wyatt: This time around, we're doing some hand-waving and asking you to believe that things have always been this way. There have always been sorcerers (like the Simbul), it's just that no one could tell them apart from wizards before; there have always been dwarf wizards (and I maintain that there really have), but they've been pretty reclusive until now. Some people may find that straining their ability to suspend disbelief, but I actually find that easier to believe than an RSE like the Time of Troubles.
Rob Heinsoo: But there are a few specific instances of Deities Doing Interesting Things. To use an example James brought up -- the dwarves -- Moradin turns out to have done something good for the dwarves a few decades ago that helps explain their renewed strength in the Realms.
Rich Baker: If you think of the Realms as a real, living world that we view through the "lens" of our rules system, then changing the rules simply means you're getting a better lens that lets you see things a little differently than you did before.
Jim Butler: Each time we look at the Realms, we do so through a particular set of spectacles. The D&D rules are the newest pair of spectacles through which to view the Realms, and we get a much clearer vision of Faerûn now. Where once we only saw wizards, we now see sorcerers and wizards. Where once powerful personae performed amazing acts, we now see the mechanisms behind their abilities (feats, prestige classes, skills).
Sean Reynolds: We've downplayed some deities and puffed up others (partly so that every class could have one or two appropriate choices for a patron, partly because of localized events in the world), but we haven't had any sweeping changes to multiple deities
Rich Baker: In many cases, this is just an improvement -- for example, 2nd Edition AD&D did not always work well for describing some of the more unique and memorable characters, both novel and game, that graced Faerûn. The new D&D multiclassing rules help us to describe Elminster's career with greater precision and accuracy than ever before, with no divine conflicts necessary to explain how or why things "changed."
What is it about the Gods of Faerûn that might interest a noncleric type character?
James Wyatt: One of the things I really like about the new new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book is the prestige classes for noncleric devotees of a deity. Without becoming a cleric, a faithful character can play an active role in the church of her patron deity by becoming a divine seeker (for the rogue types), a divine champion (for the fighter types, with the wonderful "smite infidel" ability), or an arcane devotee (for the wizard types).
Rich Baker: We have several prestige classes closely tied to the deities that are appropriate for noncleric or paladin characters. For example, the divine champion is a prestige class designed to be very "fighterish" -- you'll still get your d10 Hit Die, your fighter save and attack progression, and so on -- with several new class abilities tied to your character's devotion to a single deity. If you're playing a fighter who particularly reveres Tempus, the god of battle, you could choose to pick up levels as a divine champion of Tempus without completely abandoning your core competency as a fighter. Ditto for the arcane devotee, a class that allows wizards and sorcerers to affiliate themselves with a particular deity without actually picking up levels in cleric.
James Wyatt: These prestige classes don't step on the cleric's toes at all, or make clerics any less special, but they drive home the point that the gods need all kinds of servants, not just clerics. Everyone should have a patron deity in the Realms, and these prestige classes give you something concrete to do with your patron deity.
Sean Reynolds: Well, since the deities are so involved in the Faerûn, it makes sense for each person to have a patron deity. In addition to every divine spellcaster needing a patron to get spells (making patrons important to druids, paladins, and rangers as well as clerics), a person's patron might affect their ability to use certain magic items, how some spells affect them, or even your access to a feat. Some orders of monks follow a particular patron, and you can't join if you aren't of the proper faith. Most importantly (to an adventurer, at least), a person that dies without a patron deity might not be able to be raised from the dead. . . .
Jim Butler: "Worship me or die forever."
Seriously, though, the gods of the Realms give the world a very unique flavor. No matter what class of character you're running, you're probably going to hear of some god-touched minion. Maybe you want to become one of them some time; maybe you want to hunt them down and destroy them all. The gods of the Realms reach out to all of their children, regardless of class. Heed the call . . .
James Wyatt wrote articles for DragonMagazineand DungeonAdventures before joining the Wizards of the Coast staff in January 2000. Game design is career No. Five, after stints as a childcare worker, ordained minister, technical writer, and web designer. He currently resides in Washington State.